Let’s stick with the Romanian theme that we introduced here on EuroCheapo last week. In that last post, we extolled the beauty of fall colors and scents in the Iza Valley of northern Romania.
Images of Transylvania
What images does Transylvania evoke? Fiendish vampires and creepy castles, perhaps? Yes, we’ve all been seduced by a dozen Hollywood renderings of the vampire theme, which was propelled into popular consciousness by the Irish writer Bram Stoker in his 1897 novel Dracula.
Bram Stoker never actually visited Transylvania, though he did a splendid job of putting the place on the map. Stoker’s Dracula is essentially fictional, so beware of those “Dracula lived here” signs that now dot the tourist hot-spots across Transylvania.
The Dracula card
Prince Vlad III of Wallachia, often dubbed “Vlad the Impaler,” is seen by many as being a historical model for Stoker’s fictional Dracula, though by all accounts Vlad was quite a benign ruler during the six years he presided over Wallachian affairs. His administration introduced policies to strengthen the economy, boost agricultural production and improve homeland security. Sound familiar?
Vlad’s real gripe was against the ethnic Germans (nowadays often referred to as “Transylvanian Saxons”) who had not signed up to his agenda. But the Saxon communities of Transylvania survived and went from strength to strength, contributing mightily to the immensely varied cultural melting pot of the area. There were also Hungarians and Roma, Jews and Armenians, each of these communities adding to the ethnic mix of this part of Romania.
Transylvania goes Transatlantic
Transylvania comes to America next month with an exhibition on the region in Washington DC. The exhibition is part of a larger program promoting the cultural values of Romania and celebrating 130 years of diplomatic relations between Romania and the USA.
The exhibition runs from October 14 to 31, 2010 (Monday to Friday, 10:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.) at The Embassy of Romania to the United States. Guided tours take place at 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. If the exhibition inspires you to find out more about Transylvania and visit the region, Lucy Mallows’ 2008 guidebook is an authoritative introduction for travelers to Transylvania.
Germans in Transylvania
The Saxon villages outwitted Vlad and over many centuries developed as little outposts of German life, language and culture in the Romanian hills. But after the political changes of 1989, a mass exodus to Germany left many farmsteads and the distinctive fortified Lutheran churches empty.
The exhibition in Washington DC documents how new life is now bring breathed into these communities. Odd, isn’t it, that German immigration policy in the 1990s was much more successful that Vlad the Impaler in dismantling the delicate thread of Saxon life in Transylvania?